New Katerra CLT Factory Goes Big with Biesse/Uniteam

There’s no doubt the new Katerra factory in Spokane Valley, Washington has a need for speed. The company created this amazing facility in about three years, start to finish. It officially opened in September 2019 and proceeded to power up its secret weapons: two fast and furious Biesse/Uniteam CLT 400 machining centers to process Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) panels.

Client: Katerra
Ville: Spokane, WA
Pays: États-Unis
Product: UNITEAM CLT 400

According to Katerra Manufacturing Process Engineer Cory Frasheski, the Uniteam machines are crucial to the factory’s claim to fame: turning out the biggest CLT panel ever made. It’s not just mass timber, it’s massive CLT -- 12-feet, 2-inches by 60 feet long, the largest free-span CLT. “Each panel’s sheer size means we can do a building in fewer panels,” Frasheski said. “Large panels also enable us to move more product with less shipping cost. They are ideal for our floor systems and really support our desire to be a vertically integrated company, from design to installation and construction.” In addition to floor systems, the Katerra team feeds lumber packs into the machines to produce CLT panels for ceiling and wall systems, efficiently and effectively creating full building packages.

The Uniteam machines also support two other Katerra product advantages: precision and quality. Frasheski said customers tell them they make some of the best-looking CLT they have ever seen. “We really focus on taking each individual board and thoroughly analyzing it, down to very tight geometric tolerances. Such precision means we can really squish those boards together and take out any gaps. As a result, our wood panels look more like a solid surface than boards pressed together.”

New Katerra CLT Factory Goes Big with Biesse/Uniteam: Photo 1

All Automation, All the Time

The Katerra factory has zero manual processes. Everything from lumber qualifying all the way up through lay-up -- the process that puts lumber together with adhesive --  is done through automation. “It’s hands-off, a lot safer,” Frasheski said. “You don’t have to be involved in any process physically -- machines do the brunt of the work. We envision a future for our factory that also relies on artificial intelligence. We have a long road to travel to become a technology company producing lumber, but we already have a good start to it,” he said.

The plant had one other CNC at the factory start-up, but they could not wait to get the extra capacity the Biesse/Uniteam machines would bring. “At this early stage, the machines are running far from full capacity. But to see how fast they can be, we’ve done testing that assumed a panel coming in had to be out as fast as possible. Testing what the machine could do at full capacity really blew us away! The speed, accuracy, and the overall usability are exceptional. Our programmers love it. Our operators love it. And we all have a good time running our amazing machines,” Frasheski said.

The Katerra team can’t say enough about the exceptional features and capabilities of their Biesse/Uniteam machines:

  • Dual Spindles: “The machine is configured with independent dual spindles, so while we are cutting, we are changing tools for our next cut. The lag time for process changeover is practically eliminated.”
  • Process Speed: “When we are squaring up our large panels, we can use both spindles at the same time. Having the ability to dual-cut panels slices our processing time by more than half.”
  • Cool to Watch: The spindles are always moving, going back and forth. The way they work together is so cool.”
  • Spindle Speed: “The motors are three times as powerful as our other CNC.”
  • Quality: “We love the quality of the machine, the way it moves and functions. It’s so smooth and seamless.”
  • Service: “The service has been the best I’ve seen on any machinery in this entire facility. I get a response from Biesse’s service department within 1-2 hours, and they can remote into the machine and tell me how to fix it that same day. Other companies keep us waiting up to 3 or 4 days before we even get a response.”
  • Future capability: “We have the ability to go all the way up to a 9-ply.”

 

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“We would absolutely recommend Biesse. I bring a ton of vendors in the building that have CLT plants,” Frasheski said. “When we walk over to the Uniteam machines, it’s always very easy to explain why any plant should buy from Biesse.”

We see our Biesse/Uniteam machines as the powerhouse CNC of the CLT industry. Having software that’s so fast and flexible makes onboarding new programmers much, much easier.
Cory Frasheski Katerra Manufacturing Process Engineer
New Katerra CLT Factory Goes Big with Biesse/Uniteam: Photo 2
New Katerra CLT Factory Goes Big with Biesse/Uniteam: Photo 3
New Katerra CLT Factory Goes Big with Biesse/Uniteam: Photo 4
New Katerra CLT Factory Goes Big with Biesse/Uniteam: Photo 5
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